Hinterland - 28 October 2019

In Hinterland this week, - nuclear power stations, turkey (or the lack of it), vaccinations, algorithms, Irish High Streets and a Glastonbury controversy. Read on...

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Hinkley Point B nuclear power station safety zone reviewed

As if local authorities didn’t have enough to worry about they are now responsible for a wider duty of care in relation to nuclear power stations if they have one – in every case this will be an issue a rural authority is grappling with. I wonder if they do much networking?

People close to Hinkley Point B in Somerset are being asked whether the emergency planning zone round the nuclear plant should be altered.

Currently the zone has a two-mile (3.5 km) radius, which includes Stogursey village and some smaller communities.

But the government has asked local councils to review whether that should change.

Earlier this year, the government changed the law, which means local councils now have responsibility for setting the size and shape of emergency planning zones instead of the Office for Nuclear Regulation.

If there was a radiation leak, a series of measures would be taken for those living within the emergency zone.

This includes evacuation advice and the issuing of iodine tablets.

A new report from EDF Energy says the zone should cover at least 1km, but has not stated any recommendation.


Specialist Christmas meats at risk from lack of seasonal workers

Another challenge in relation to food processing, rural areas and Brexit this story tells us:

Supplies of festive food staples including pigs in blankets, glazed hams and three-bird roasts could be hit by Brexit-related labour shortages in the meat industry.

Some specialist processing plants that require additional seasonal labour for hand-finished products are already struggling to meet orders, according to the National Pig Association (NPA), which represents processors, abattoirs and farmers.

Most meat processing plants have labour shortages equivalent to up to 15% of their required workforces, as the fall in the value of the pound since the 2016 referendum has combined with uncertainty about residential status, according to the Grocer trade journal. But the labour shortage at seasonal specialists could be as much as 30% because they usually increase their workforce by up to 15% at this time of year, says the British Meat Processors Association.

Ed Barker, senior policy advisor of the NPA, said several processors who relied on regular semi-skilled labourers from Europe had said they were struggling to fulfil orders ahead of Christmas.


Falling vaccination rates among children blamed on difficulty booking GP appointments

As GPs are increasingly in short supply in rural settings I wonder if this story has some of its most acute challenges in rural areas?

Parents are finding it difficult to access GP appointments to vaccinate their children, a phenomenon which has contributed to a fall in immunisation rates, the Whitehall spending watchdog has found.

The National Audit Office (NAO) warns of an inconsistent system for calling children for vaccines – especially among “under-served” groups, such as travellers, who have a lower vaccination uptake.

NHS England missed the 95 per cent uptake target for nearly all routine pre-school jabs in 2018-19, following a general downward trend since 2012-13.

Just 86.4 per cent of children had had the full dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab by the age of five in 2018-19, which is below the World Health Organisation’s 95 per cent target.

The timing and availability of GP appointments, as well as childcare pressures, are some of the possible reasons for falling pre-school vaccination rates, the NAO report says.


Trump housing plan would make bias by algorithm 'nearly impossible to fight'

Things which start in the USA have a terrible habit of manifesting themselves here. I am sure public services will become increasingly dependent on this sort of algorithm process and for anyone thinking this might be a good idea my suggestion on the strength of this story is that you think again. Just remember the really negative implications to us all, of the portal through which we are increasingly manipulated through a process known as surveillance capitalism. It operates under the innocuous name of “cookies”. We, in the public sector have an opportunity to put a spoke in the wheel of all this stuff in England if we resile from it. Lets hope you agree. This story tells us:

The Trump administration has proposed a shift in rules that would make it “nearly impossible” for Americans to sue for housing discrimination caused by algorithms, according to tech scholars and civil rights groups.

Absolving companies of wrongdoing when algorithms are involved could have a major effect on the housing market, which often relies on automation – in the form of background checks, credit score analysis, and analyzing an applicant’s history – to decide whether to rent or sell someone a home.

The new ruling would raise the bar for legal challenges against housing discrimination, making cases brought against landlords and lenders less likely to succeed.

It does this through tweaking the interpretation of the “disparate-impact” standard of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which permits the use of statistical analysis to identify patterns of discrimination and prohibits discriminatory conduct, even if the conduct does not have “discriminatory intent”.

Representatives from New York University, the AI Now Institute, the University of Maryland, non-profit Center on Race Inequality, and the Law and Princeton encouraged the administration to withdraw the proposed rule in the lengthy letter issued on Friday.


Can we save the UK and Ireland's high streets with multi-use spaces?

I am keen that we learn from other settings this week, Ireland is a bit closer than the USA but this re-use plan for a challenged modest town high street is worth thinking about and potentially copying. This story tells us:

Could a multi-use space be what it takes to transform our struggling high streets?

According to statistics from the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium and Springboard, footfall on NI's high streets was down by 5.5% last month, making it the worst region in the UK.

Some people in Bangor, County Down, think they may have found the answer.

The seaside town's main shopping centre, the Flagship Centre, closed its doors earlier this year.

The premises is privately owned and is now in administration.

Louise Little, manager of North Down Community Network, believes a multi-use facility where community, voluntary, health, business, statutory and faith-based sectors can operate under the same roof could regenerate the community and create major footfall.

The director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium said the group is "thinking in a way that a lot of town centres need to".

"We need to be having these conversations now because this seismic change is already underway," Aodhán Connolly told BBC News NI.


And Finally

Brian May: Queen won't play Glastonbury without badger cull apology

Shame Queen wont be gracing Glasto, but they’re not the same without Freddie anyway – never mind the badger controversy…..This story tells us:

Brian May has said Queen will not play Glastonbury next year after clashing with the festival’s founder over the controversial badger cull.

The 72-year-old guitarist and animal rights campaigner rubbished claims that his band had been booked to headline Glastonbury’s 50th anniversary event next year.

Founder Michael Eavis, 84, who is also a dairy farmer, has called May a “danger to farming” and criticised him for his opposition to the badger cull, which is aimed at preventing the spread of bovine TB.

Last year, Eavis’s support for the cull prompted the Downton Abbey actor Peter Egan to call on music fans to boycott Glastonbury.

Speaking on BBC Radio 2 on Friday, May said Queen, who are touring with American Idol’s Adam Lambert providing the vocals, would not perform at Glastonbury in 2020 unless “things changed radically”.


About the author:
Hinterland is written for the Rural Services Network by Ivan Annibal, of rural economic practitioners Rose Regeneration.


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